Discovering Our Underwater World

Published August 28, 2014

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, has traveled the globe uncovering the wonders of our largely unexplored ocean.

Aboard the Okeanos, scientists have made some amazing discoveries. Here are just a few highlights:

The “Dumbo” Octopus

This species is hardly the size of an elephant, but gets its nickname from the ear-like fins that help propel it through the water. The octopus’ posture captured in this photo—arms wrapped in tight coils—is a behavior that has never been observed before!

Dumbo octopus. Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Deep-Sea Predation

The ship’s remotely operated vehicle, the Deep Discoverer, also captured another uncommon occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico—a sea urchin snacking on deep-sea coral (Plumarella octocoral). The small, 5-sided “mouth” of a sea urchin (pictured below) is known as “Aristotle’s lantern.”

Urchin eating. Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A Clinging Crinoid

Scientists spotted this crinoid sticking to a black coral on the West Florida Escarpment. They think it may be a new species in the Family Thalassometridae! Though crinoids may resemble plants, they are actually small marine animals.

Crinoid on black coral. Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Undersea Eruptions

After sending a remotely operated vehicle on a dive to explore what they thought was a shipwreck, scientists discovered they were actually looking at “tar lilies,” remnants of an undersea asphalt volcanic eruption.

Tar lilies. Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Mysterious Markings

The Paleodictyon holes in this photo taken by the ROV Deep Discover have been documented for decades and date back 600 million years in the geologic record. Very little is known about the living fossil that created this deep-sea design, but this may be the first time its distinctive honeycomb-patterned holes have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

Holes in seafloor. Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On September 9, National Aquarium staff will host a live Google+ Hangout with exploration teams from the Okeanos and Nautilus research vessels. 

Tune in at 3 pm EST to hear about their latest missions and the future of ocean exploration!

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